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Potatoes, and some other seemingly harmless foods you should think twice about eating

POTATOES

With potatoes being the most popular veggie in the U.S. you would think they might be pretty good for you, I mean they are a vegetable.  It really depends on how you eat them.  There are so many ways to prepare them and to be honest most of them are terrible for you.  Think about it, french fries, potato chips, potato skins, loaded baked potatoes, none of which are a staple in a healthy diet.  But even before it is sliced and fried, or smothered with cheese and bacon it may be pretty awful.  If you are eating conventional, non-organic, potatoes you may want to pay attention to this.  They are a root vegetable, and root vegetables absorb the chemical herbicides, pesticides and fungicides that end up in the soil.  They are treated during the growing season, then sprayed before harvest to kill any fibrous vines, then once they are dug up they are treated again to prevent sprouting.  Hungry for some mashed potatoes yet?  Get this, most potato farmers won’t even eat the spuds they sell you.  They have a separate plot for themselves that is chemical free, AKA organic.  There are some veggies that you don’t really need to buy organic but for certain potatoes is not one of them.

HOT DOGS AND ANY OTHER PROCESSED MEATS

Lets start this one off by taking a look at the saturated fat in one of the most consumed processed food, the hot dog.  They can have 7 grams of saturated fat.  That is more than 1/3 of what you should be eating in an entire day.  Not counting the cheese, chili or anything else you eat on it or with it.  Throw a slice of cheese on it and a side of chips and you could be eating more than half a days worth of the artery clogging saturated fat.  Lunch meat, another popular processed meat, is the same way.  Bologna could have 4.5 grams, hard salami has 1 gram of saturated fat PER SLICE, and when’s the last time you had just one slice.  The fat is bad but may be the lesser of two evils when you compare it to the other reason processed meats are terrible.  Sodium nitrite.  What is it and why is it bad?  Well it is an additive used to preserve color and inhibit botulism in the meat.  It is bad because it has been linked with an increased risk of cancer.  When you digest sodium nitrite it produces nitrosamines.  One study showed that in people who consume moderate amounts of processed meats have a 67% increased risk of pancreatic cancer.  The risk of developing leukemia also goes through the roof.  One study suggests risk may be increased by as much as 700%!  Please if you are going to eat these types of food try to find ones that are nitrite and nitrate free.  Also taking in antioxidants such as vitamin C and E before meals may offer some protection but that is no guarantee.

DOUGHNUTS or DONUTS

Fried, high in fat, and high in sugar, what else can I say?  Awful.  I mean take a Dunkin Donuts chocolate frosted cake donut.  It has 20 grams of sugar, 23 grams of fat and 10 grams of that is saturated!  Their chocolate coconut cake donut has a ridiculous 25 grams of saturated fat.  That is more than you should eat in a single day, just in one donut.  Some of their donuts have up to 500 calories, others have more than 50 grams of sugar, more than a can of soda.  Next time you think you want a quick fix for breakfast maybe you should go for a toasted bagel with a little butter instead.  Keep in mind I am saying a little butter.  Bagels can have around 300 calories but without the sugar and saturated fat, a much better way to start your day.

LOW FAT/NON FAT FOODS

Here I go contradicting myself again.  Before you get all fussy just hear me out.  First off some fats aren’t bad for you.  Take peanut butter for example.  The low-fat versions of peanut butter take out healthy mono-unsaturated fats that is good for you and replace it with maltodextrin.  A completely useless empty carb.  That’s no good.  Also you have to take in to account the mental aspect of it.  Without even thinking about it a person tends to eat more of something when it is labeled reduced fat, low-fat, or non fat.  To be honest if you are taking in more calories your body will turn them into fat anyway so you aren’t saving yourself at all.  Instead read the ingredients and make choices based on that.  Choose foods with no added sugars or fillers and be conscious of what you are really eating.

SODA/DIET SODA

This I saved for last.  Not because it isn’t important, but because it is so bad for you that I already wrote an entire article just about soda.  If you cut nothing else out of your diet, you should start with soda.  Here is the link to my article, check it out and see how scary the stuff actually is.

http://wp.me/p1EZqE-J

 

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What are some of the right foods for kids to eat?

When my son started eating solid foods I really didn’t know what he should be eating.  I guess I really didn’t think too much about it either.  I think a lot of parents, especially new parents may have this same problem.  When I did start to think about it and his future eating I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t starting him on the path that far too many Americans are on right now.  Today there is no state in the U.S. that has an obesity rate that is less that 20%, and 36 states are over 25%.  Twenty five million of those obese people are children.  The health risks should be obvious, but if you are more of a dollars and cents person, chew on this….The money lost due to obesity related problems(missed days of work and future earnings losses) is estimated to be right around $56 billion per year.  Health care costs for obese children are about 3 times more expensive than of kids of a normal weight.  Even more eye-opening is that severely overweight Americans spend more on healthcare than smokers!  And we bitch about the economy.  The good news is that this problem is one we have complete control over.  It’s not some incurable disease.  We can fix it, and it needs to start right now.

I am just going to focus on the food aspect of this problem right now and leave the physical activity part for another day.  Here are some suggestions that I feel should be a part of our kids diets and why.

MILK

Pretty obvious huh? Don’t all kids drink milk?  Well maybe not, but they should, provided they don’t have an allergy.  We all know milk is a good source of calcium and that is so important.  Did you know that by the time a child is done their growth spurt, around 17 or so, 90% of their adult bone mass has already been established?  I would say that’s a big deal.  Vitamin D is also important for building healthy bones, and it’s also in milk.  Another thing that is important for kids is protein, it’s the building blocks of every cell in our body.  You better believe that a good source of protein goes a long way.  For kids under 2 years of age they should be drinking whole milk.  The fat is needed for their developement.  Kids over 2 should switch to a low-fat choice.  I give my son organic milk, because I believe not only is it better for you but it tastes way better.  It is much creamier so kids may not even notice that they are drinking 1%.

PEANUT BUTTER

Speaking of protein, here we have one of the ingredients in an old-fashioned classic PB&J.  Peanut butter also has all kinds of  vitamins(A,E, and B6) and minerals(zinc, copper, magnesium, and iron).  You might be saying that I’m contradicting myself because it is high in fat, and that is true, but it is mostly mono- and- poly-unsaturated fat.  Translation – it’s good fat, not the bad saturated fat.  Now just like anything all peanut butter isn’t created equal.  Some of the popular brands like Jif and Peter Pan contain trans fat which is awful for you.  The best thing to do, as with anything, is do some research.  Find out what you are looking for and what products have that.

APPLES

Another food that seems sort of obvious right?  Well by apples I don’t mean apple juice, applesauce, or peeled sliced apples.  This other crap isn’t an apple, it’s a poor substitute often loaded with sugar.  And if you peel the skin off an apple you are losing a ton of fiber.  An apple has about 5 grams of fiber, but peel it and you lose half of that.  The reason I like apples is because they can appeal to anyone because there is an apple made for just about any taste.  Golden delicious, granny smith, fuji, red delicious, gala are all types of apples I can just pick off the top of my head and they all have a bit different taste so try some out and see what they like.  They are all a good source of fiber and vitamin C.

EGGS

Now I know what some of you are thinking.  Talking about all the health risks why would we want to raise cholesterol?  The truth is, while yes eggs do have dietary cholesterol, not all of it ends up in the blood.  And if your dietary cholesterol intake does rise, the body compensates by making less of its own.  Also eggs are the purest form of protein found in whole-foods.  Plus they have more of the unsaturated good fat we were talking about earlier.  Not enough to convince you?  Then here is more good things you will find in an egg.  Vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B6,  B12, folate, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and zinc.  Not bad for one little almost chicken.

These are only a few suggestions.  Obviously I couldn’t put everything good in here, but it is a good start.  I try to get my son to eat these foods as much as I can, and believe me I know that sometimes it is not easy.  Apart from the eggs he  is usually a turd about them.  I know kids can be difficult but you have to keep trying and never give up.  The truth is that their future is worth all the hardships we as parents face now.  Even if we will never be appreciated for them.

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The truth and facts about soda

It is a rarity that I will allow myself to have a soda of any kind. I don’t want my son to ever really drink soda. I think the mass consumption of soda has a role to play in many of the health problems we have as a society. Now I know a lot of you are probably saying “well I drink diet soda, and that can’t be bad”. Well like a lot of things with the “diet” label, it’s just bad in a different way. Here are some interesting facts about America’s #1 consumed drink… Well lets start with sugar. As you should know soda is high in sugar. A 20 ounce bottle of Coke has 65 grams to be exact, and if you like Mt Dew you are now talking about 77 grams. In terms of calories just from the sugar that would be 240 for the Coke and 290 for the Mt Dew. That is a lot. Now lets look at what that sugar does. For starters, before it even gets into your system the high levels of sugar along with the acid start to decay your teeth. Once it does get into your system obviously your blood sugar spikes, causing a rise in insulin. Then you get the sugar/caffeine rush, followed by the crash that goes with it. Oh, and on top of that studies have shown that the sugar from one soft drink can damage white blood cells’ ability to kill bacteria. I don’t want to forget about the acid level either. The pH is soda is the same as the pH in vinegar. Good stuff huh? If that didn’t scare you let me continue. Along with the high levels of sugar, soda also has high levels of phosphorus. Why is this important? I’m glad you asked. The high phosphorus content will leach calcium from your body. Higher amounts of phosphorus have been linked with increased risk of osteoporosis, tooth decay, and gum disease. And this may be a bigger problem in children. Kids who drink soft drinks have a risk of bone fracture 3 to 4 times higher than those of kids who don’t. Think about that next time you are at the market buying drinks for your kids. Now you diet soda drinkers. Sorry to burst your bubble but diet soda may actually be even worse for you. Hard to believe huh, something worse than all that chaos i just described? Well lets look at what diet drinks are sweetened with. Some companies use aspartame to sweeten their drinks. Aspartame produces methane when ingested into the body. In fact one liter of an aspartame sweetened drink can produce as much as 56 milligrams of methanol. If you are a heavy drinker and consume several in one day you could be taking in over 200 milligrams of methane. That is 32 times the EPA limit. You’re basically poisoning your body! Now lets take a look at saccharin. Nevermind the fact that it is estimated to be 300 to 500 times sweeter than sugar, nevermind the fact that it is a petroleum derivative, it is just down right bad. Numerous tests over the last few decades have displayed the carcinogenic effects of saccharin to the bladder and other parts of the body. Especially the female reproductive system. Sometimes with doses as low as the amount in 1 to 2 sodas per day. Trading calories for cancer or poison may not be the best way to go. To wrap this up I would like to give you an idea of what happens when you drink a soda.

  • In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.)
  • 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)
  • 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure goes up, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream.
  • 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. On a side note this is just about the same way heroin works.
  • >60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine.
  • >60 Minutes: Now it’s the caffeine that will make you have to pee. When you do, it is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
  • >60 minutes: As the chaos inside your body slows down, so will you with a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. Now you have all but pissed away the water that was in the soda. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth
Please take all this into account the next time you are walking up and down the beverage isle at the store. Particularly you parents out there, remember some of the habits we give to our kids(intentional or not) may stick with them forever.

Kid friendly recipe #1: Tacos

I think this is a great meal to get kids involved with.  There are quite a few steps, but it doesn’t require a culinary degree to make.  As with all my recipes I will let you know what ingredients are available organic with an (o).

Taco seasoning:

1 tablespoon chili powder(o)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder(o)

1/4 teaspoon onion powder(o)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes(o)

1/4 teaspoon oregano(o)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin(o)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper(o)

All you have to do is mix all these ingredients together and add them to whatever ground meat you choose.  I always make my tacos with ground turkey.  It is a bit healthier than beef and with all the spices going in the mix even the pickiest of eaters probably won’t even notice.  As with any recipe you can add to or take away from it what you like.  This isn’t the exact recipe I use, I add a bit more garlic and onion.  Also I use cayenne pepper instead of the pepper flakes.  Just give it a try and you will figure out what works for you and your family.  What I do is make a pretty big batch and put it in one of my Foodsaver canisters to keep fresh.  That way i don’t have to ever buy taco packets.  On a side note, I’ve found it pretty easy to locate an organic option for just about any spice.

Small kids will be excited to throw in the different spices to your seasoning mix, tear up lettuce, help grate cheese, and bigger kids might be able to help cut some of the veggies.  You could use tomatoes(o), onions(o), cheese(o), lettuce(o), sour cream(o), guacamole, or any combination to add to the tacos.  Then after the kids help wash, mix, cut or dice, everyone gets to eat with their hands.  How much fun is that??  I always have tortilla chips and guacamole with my tacos and I will even share the recipe for that.

Guacamole recipe:

2 avocados

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped(o)

1/2 onion, diced(o)

2 cloves garlic, minced(o)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper(o)

1/2 teaspoon cumin(o)

The following ingredients I don’t like to use but are popular in guacamole.

2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and sliced

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

lime juice, to taste

This is actually a pretty easy dish to make as well.  All you have to do is put everything in a food processor few a few seconds, or more if you don’t like chunky guacamole(like myself), then put it in a bowl.  Done!  Again, please don’t feel you have to use this recipe exactly.  Depending on my mood I will use more or less garlic, maybe not even the jalapeno, or adjust the salt.  That is one of the great things about cooking, you can make it your own.  A recipe should be a guide, not a rule book.  So experiment and please enjoy.

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How to get back our Family dinner..

If you read my first post you know what started my change in lifestyle.  As my son gets older the question has become “How do I get him to adopt the same habits?”.  Well I think I found the answer about a month ago.  Let him help cook.  Like a lot of 17 month old kids, he gets a bit fussy about what he will and won’t eat, even if its something I already know he likes.  It was Father’s Day and I was making breakfast, he came to the gate we have at our kitchen doorway and asked what I was doing. I told him cooking, and he now can’t see me go to the kitchen without saying “cook”.  I let him put a little salt and pepper in the scrambled eggs and I held him as I made them.  He normally likes eggs but this time he was super excited to eat them.  So now I try to get him involved whenever I can, and whenever its safe.  Not only does it get him excited about eating the food, it is a lot of fun to spend that time with him.

After I started letting him help cook, I did some research to see if it was just my imagination or was this something that might help all parents.  As it turns out there are tons of reasons why you might want to get your kids involved.  The most obvious is the fact that it might get them not only to try, but be excited to try some healthier choices they otherwise might not.  Now that is great, almost like playing a mind trick on them.  Also every meal you eat at home is one less meal you eat out.  With the obesity rates the way they are in this county I feel it is best to know exactly what you are eating.  When we eat out, the meals are very often higher in fat, sodium, and the portions at many restaurants have become ridiculous.  When eating at home, you control all of that, and you can start teaching them about the importance of good eating habits and why they are important.  Another great reason to get them involved is to have that great family time.  With the hectic jobs and schedules that some people have now it can be hard to have quality family time.  The family meal has become a lost tradition to a lot of people, maybe its time we find it again.  Beyond making you as a parent happy to spend time with them, it can also have a positive impact on your children.  It can give them a sense of accomplishment and pride.  Make them feel good about contributing to the family.  Anything that can boost a childs self-esteem can’t be too bad.  Speaking of things that are good for our kids, cooking is a valuable skill.  It can turn into a career, help your son impress the girl of his dreams, or just enable them one day to feed a family of their own with the right food choices. 

I hope that you can relate to any of the reasons I gave to get kids involved.  Any one of them really is great, but when you start looking at all the factors(better eating habits, trying new foods, giving them self-confidence, a feeling of pride and contribution the family, more family time, learning a great skill, and reducing the number of restaurant meals) it’s really hard not to see that this is something we should all try to do whenever we can.  Check back for some kid friendly recipes this weekend!

Red Velvet Cupcakes w/Cream Cheese Icing

Red VelvetThis is a recipe that I use whenever I want to cheat a bit or there is an occasion where I want to impress people. It’s a pretty simple recipe but tastes so good. Some people think red velvet is complicated or hard to make, not true. So please try this at home and if you like, let me know how you make out.

Also, a little side note, I make these with all organic ingredients. I find that not only do I feel better about eating foods produced organically but they also taste better. The ingredients with (o) next to them are the ones I buy organic.

Red Velvet Cupcake recipe:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour(o)
1 1/2 cups sugar(o)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil(o)
1 cup buttermilk(o)
2 large eggs(o)
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the over to 350°, take all your ingredients out of the fridge so they get as close as possible to room temperature, and line your cupcake pan with cupcake papers. I find that the best cupcake pan is one that is a pretty heavy pan and a bit of a shiny metal.

Mixing is pretty simple. You should sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Either in a stand mixer or with a hand-held mixer, mix your wet ingredients together pretty well. Then you add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet.

Fill your cups 2/3 full and back for 20-22 minutes, turning after 10 minutes. This will make 24 cupcakes

Cream Cheese Icing Recipe:
8 ounces unsalted butter(softened)(o)
8 ounces cream cheese(softened)(o)
4 cups powdered sugar(o)
2 teaspoons vanilla

I have found that it tastes just as good if you use fat-free cream cheese instead of the full fat kind, but I will leave that up to your taste buds to decide.

Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and set aside. Make sure the butter is well softened and add it to your mixing bowl with the cream cheese and vanilla. Beat together until they start to get smooth, then add the powdered sugar a little at a time making sure it is well blended and not lumpy.

Will make icing for 24 cupcakes.

An apple a day?…Maybe not

Azinphos methyl, benomyl, captan, carbaryl, carbendazim, cypemethrin, delta metrin, dimethoate, dinocap, gamma-HCH, zineb.

Is this a vocabulary list for some advanced chemistry class? Perhaps odd names of far away stars or galaxies? Nope this is a list of the synthetic pesticides that could be on your delicious juicy apple. Well over 90% of conventional apples have some combination of these chemicals on them when you eat them. An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Not these apples. In fact They may earn you a very serious trip to the doctor. Studies have shown a link between synthetic chemical pesticides and certain forms of cancer. I mean think about it, a lot of pesticides owe their existence to chemical weapons. In WWI and WWII there were all kinds of chemicals being used in war, mustard gas and nerve agents are some. After wars chemical plants wanted to keep making money so they changed the chemicals a bit and called them pesticides.

Kids are at a special risk for exposure because of their high metabolisms and low body weights. More than 1 million children ages 1-5 ingest at least 15 pesticides every day from fruits and vegetables. And these are the foods some of us parents have to force our kids to eat. Over 600,000 of these kids eat a dose of insecticides that our government considers unsafe, and since when has uncle sam been at the forefront of our safety? A staggering 61,000 of those children eat a dose more than 10 times the “safe” level. Keep in mind that every day new research can come out that may trump the current views.

Now I don’t want my son to run in fear from fruits and vegetables so I offer you an alternative. Organic fruits and veggies. There are no synthetic chemicals allowed. Only plant-based pesticides and good farming practice to deter pests. Crop rotation, using “good bugs” that eat the pest bugs, and choosing varieties of plants that are naturally resistant to pests are great ways for us to avoid chemicals. I know sometimes organic can be a bit more pricey, but consider the alternative. Cancer, immune system suppression, nervous system disorders, reproductive damage, and disruption of hormonal systems have all been linked to chemical pesticides. Public health costs associated with pesticide-related acute poisonings and cancer alone, add up to an estimated $1.1 billion dollars per year. So in the long run maybe that organic food is worth the few extra pennies, and maybe the saying should read “an organic apple a day, will keep the doctor away”.

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